When I stepped outside last Saturday to swing by the dedication of Pomona’s new dorms (where I am fortunate to reside this year), I immediately wanted to slink back in. It’s not like I would have been able to skip it anyhow—my window was exactly adjacent to the cocktail chatter of various alumni, trustees, and deans. However, I was struck by an acute case of being underdressed, my wrinkled jeans contrasting sharply with their expensive dresses, heels, slacks, and ties.
I managed a quick change, grabbed some iced tea, and found some fellow students who were undergoing a similar reaction. The very presence of these well-dressed interlopers seemed to declare, “Look at me, I’m an alum! I’m employed! I have an extensive professional and formal wardrobe for events such as these!”
As graduation draws closer, it becomes even harder to imagine life after Pomona. Oh, I’ve come to terms with leaving—it’s just that the gulf yawning between me and those well-dressed strangers who stood outside my window seems to be getting wider all the time. I find myself wondering if the Career Development Office has statistics on how many post-grad Sagehens are living in cardboard boxes under bridges or haunting the edges of campus scavenging for oh-so-sustainable leftovers.
Even my glorious full-size bed, topped off with charcoal-infused memory foam (I have no idea what that means, but it’s pretty darn comfortable) seems a mere salve. “Here,” Pomona says. “Enjoy your last fleeting moments in the comfy, highly temporary nest of Claremont before you are thrown out into the worst economy since who knows when. Chirp!”
But it’s not really a fair comparison. After all, most of us will not be making the big bucks (or marrying someone who does) necessary to endow a building or professorship. While we are at Pomona, we each have at least an equal opportunity to make our voices heard on campus, but 20 or 30 years later, that power is largely concentrated in the hands of whoever has enough money and free time to be involved in the ways that really matter.
Since that probably won’t be me (if that will be you, congratulations), I should choose a better frame of reference. As much as I value Pomona for all the opportunities and experiences it has given me, and for all the effort we’ve poured into making changes and improvements to every aspect of campus life, our focus from here on out will be on our own goals and development—whether that’s becoming a physician, scientist, executive, professor, artist, journalist, or getting one of those proverbial jobs that don’t even exist yet.
We can, as always, dust off that Blaisdell quotation on the college gates (which also made an appearance in one of the speeches at the residence halls’ dedication, as seemingly required by law for any college event). As we set out for life after Pomona, we can take whatever “riches” we have and give them back, not to the college—though I look forward to receiving earnest calls from Star 47 workers for the next 50 years—but to humanity. We may not get our name on a building, but we are the most vital part of Pomona’s legacy. No pressure.